With the city of Baltimore turning to the federal government in an attempt to stem violence that has reached record-breaking levels, a group of activists — on bicycles — has a different intervention in mind.
As Baltimore resident Munir Bahar explained on HuffPost Live on Tuesday (video above), the 300 Men March he co-founded is attempting to bring men from the community together to spread their message of peace throughout the city. He believes the city’s residents will be receptive to the message because they can actually relate to the messenger, in this case a community member, more than they would to a police officer.
“You have people who are in positions of influence, power or resources, but they clearly don’t have an understanding of what it really takes to move the culture,” Bahar told HuffPost Live. “Just looking at it as strictly a police issue is insulting to the community that has the intellectual ability to go in and address some of these issues.”
On Saturday, the group led about 50 men -- wearing black T-shirts printed with the message “We must stop killing each other” -- on a bike ride through some of the city's most troubled areas, according to the Baltimore Sun.
“We are going to hold ourselves accountable,” Bahar told HuffPost Live (additional clip below). “If some young guy shoots another young guy in my neighborhood, I am responsible for that. I am responsible in that I have to look at what did I do to engage those young men before that incident happened. That is what we’re trying to answer: How do we engage the community to prevent the violence and do it in a very rational and non-emotional way?”
In addition to the marches and bicycle rides, the 300 Men March also runs a violence prevention and leadership training program aimed at employing boys ages 16 to 21 in Baltimore to take an active role in the group’s advocacy efforts, engaging with youth the group encounters during their weekly engagement walks. According to NPR, one neighborhood the group focused its efforts over the past two years saw a drop in shootings.
Baltimore has seen a surge of violence in the months since protests erupted in response to the death of Freddie Gray while he was in police custody in April. In May, the city recorded 42 homicides. In July, that number was 45, the highest monthly total of killings the city has seen since 1972.
Eleven more people were shot, two fatally, over last weekend, the Washington Post reported, noting that homicides this year are also up in cities including Atlanta, Chicago and New York.